Unidentified Syrian men detained by the Lebanese army in Wadi Khaled on the Lebanese-Syrian border, yesterday.
TEHRAN/damascus: Iran’s foreign minister said yesterday that Tehran is “ready to help any logical attempts” to end the Syrian conflict, during a visit by UN-Arab League envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi.
Brahimi was in Tehran for the second day of talks with Iranian officials about ending the conflict in Syria, a key regional ally of Iran.
Shia Iran has been a staunch supporter of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in its struggle against mostly Sunni rebels backed by Western powers and Arab nations.
“Iran is ready to help any logical attempts which are based on the realities of Syria, particularly those efforts made by the United Nations (which) are being pursued by Lakhdar Brahimi,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was quoted as saying by official news agency Irna.
“Without being affected by the pressures of some countries, the UN should play its independent role and continue its attempts to resolve the crisis,” he added.
Brahimi said addressing the crisis in Syria would “affect the security and stability of the whole region,” Irna reported.
The envoy’s visit came as Syrian troops, backed by Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah, were preparing to launch a fresh offensive north of Damascus after taking the rebel stronghold of Yabrud on Sunday.
Tehran has been accused of supplying Damascus with military and financial backing, despite repeatedly denying it has an official military presence in Syria. The Iranian authorities say their backing takes the form of humanitarian aid. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon last week called on Russia and Iran to encourage Syria to resume peace talks after the failure of the so-called Geneva II process earlier this year.
Tehran was excluded from the talks after Ban reversed a last-minute invitation when Syria’s opposition said it would boycott if Iran took part.
The United States and other Western nations say Iran must first support a June 2012 declaration by the major powers calling for a transitional government in Syria before it can play a frontline role in peace talks.
Iran refuses to consent to a transitional government, saying that “the best solution is to organise free and fair elections inside Syria.”
Meanwhile, Syrian regime forces were yesterday readying an assault on the last rebel-held areas in the Qalamoun mountains, strategically located on the Lebanese border, after overrunning key opposition bastion Yabrud.
The capture of Yabrud on Sunday by Syrian troops and Lebanese Hezbollah fighters came shortly after the conflict entered its fourth year and marked a significant setback for the rebels as it severs their supply lines from across the border.
It also raised fears of further spillover of the conflict into Lebanon, where Sunni extremists carried out a suicide car bomb attack late Sunday in a Hezbollah-dominated area that killed two members of the Shiite group, including a local official.
A security source in Damascus said the army would soon launch operations “in all areas where terrorists are to be found,” using the regime’s term for rebels battling to end the Assad family’s four-decade rule. “The aim of the army operation is to entirely secure the border and to close all corridors to Lebanon.”
The fighting along the border has sparked a fresh flight of civilians into Lebanon, which is already hosting nearly a million refugees, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.